Historic building sheds skin with a metal retrofit
In 1908, on the east bank of downtown Nashville, Tenn.’s Cumberland River, Arthur Dyer erected a six-story, 5,000-square-foot ofﬁce building for his newly founded Nashville Bridge Co. This would be the ﬁrst of many structures to be built for what would become known as NABRICO, the Bridge Building. Its 1923 wing featured exterior material that was “nothing more than wire lath covered with stucco,” says Ed Owens, waterfront redevelopment director, Nashville Metro Development and Housing Agency, Nashville. “The lath had rusted and corroded during the past 77 years, and its removal has left much of NABRICO looking essentially nude.”
NABRICO needed to be renovated for the 21st Century. This initial phase primarily focused on bringing modern-day infrastructure and life safety features to the structure. The design concept has two very deliberate components: restore the two structures’ original architecture and recall the lost heritage of the symbolic icon.
“The history of this structure and its importance to the industrialization and ultimate growth of Nashville was important to preserve as the site transformed into an urban park and event center,” says David Powell, AIA, LEED AP, Hastings Architecture Associates, Nashville. “Our design sought to remind or educate visitors of the significance of the site and this project.”
Throughout its history, NABRICO constructed barges. Metal was selected for this project because it offered a modern appearance while keeping the historic structural presence. By referencing the planer quality and design of the hull of a barge, retrofitted steel was formed and sheathed in a way that acknowledges the site’s heritage. MG McGrath, Maplewood, Minn., provided and installed metal panel systems for the renovation’s exterior elements. The ST-1, – 2 and -3 panel systems were fabricated from weathered steel providing a rusted patina finish with a clear coat protective finish prior to installation. The 16-gauge ST-1 weathering steel panels created the “barge structure” with an elliptical curve shape at the top to simulate the hull of a barge. The 11-gauge ST-2 weathering steel panels have a 48 percent open perforation with 1/2-inch holes at 11/16-inch on-center, and are installed over some of the ST-1 panels, in addition to cladding the two stair towers. The 16-gauge ST-3 panels are used as cladding to replicate rusted structural steel beams and columns with storefront windows within the openings. The ST-4 panels are anodized aluminum with 30 percent open perforation with 1/2-inch holes at 7/8-inch on-center. These were installed at the top and bottom of the elevator at the walk bridge.
“By using steel sheets we were able to acknowledge the heritage of this site as it was a former ship building facility,” Powell says. “The steel allowed us to create a monumental form though panelized, reads as single gesture. Furthermore the lightness and durability of the weathering steel allowed us to reduce our structural requirements, while giving our client a product that will be maintenance free for many years. The weathering steel was a great solution as it not only gave us the forms and materiality that were so vital to the design concepts, but doesn’t shackle the city with lots of maintenance expenses as the project ages.” Glass from Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope, Santa Monica, Calif., for the new NABRICO lobby runs all the way to the cornice line, as well as the restroom windows, puncturing the steel cladding. Steel mesh over part of the solid steel cladding flips out to announce the entrance to the building. On the west side, the three-story wing has a new glass curtainwall covered by steel mesh to filter the sun’s strong rays. All of the glass structure was installed by Martin Glenn Glass Unlimited, McMinnville, Tenn. The project’s historic windows are from Unilux, Salmtal, Germany, and were distributed and installed by Architectural Traditions of Tennessee, Lebanon, Tenn.
NABRICO: The Bridge Building, Nashville, Tenn.
Completed: October 2011
Total square footage: 10,000 square feet
Building owner: Nashville Bridge Co., Nashville
General contractor: RG Anderson Co., Nashville, www.rgandersoncompany.com
Architect: Hastings Architects, Nashville, www.haa.us
Curtainwall installer: Martin Glenn Glass Unlimited, McMinnville, Tenn., www.martinglennglass.com
Historic window installer: Architectural Traditions of Tennessee, Lebanon, Tenn.
Curtainwall: Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope, Santa Monica, Calif.,
Historic windows: Unilux, Salmtal, Germany, www.unilux.de
Metal wall panels/installer: MG McGrath, Maplewood, Minn., www.mgmcgrath.com